I ran across an article that made me pause. It was written about a young woman, a child really, who was angered by how slow people walked in the mall. The article in Elle has me thinking about my own responses to people who are “slow” whether in the mall or the airport or driving on the street. The young woman is quoted as saying “I am incredibly disappointed by people walking around your shopping centre—it annoys me so bad I want to scream, You should stop people walking slow as people are in a rush for work and this could cause people being late. It is dangerous because if someone bumped into you that person will fall over.”
“Will you ever tell people not to walk so slow? If you do this for me I will be delighted— please do it.”
I have often been irritated or “irked” by people walking slow, taking their time, looking at labels or doing whatever they are doing when I am in a hurry and want to just get in and out. I actually understand where this young woman is coming from….at least I did until recently. When I broke my foot and was in a cast for five weeks, and now in an air boot, I am one of those “slow” people. It isn’t my choice, I prefer moving fast and getting where I am going. My foot has slowed me down whether I want to be “slow” or not.
In the last few weeks, Andrew and I have been going to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings and he has been pulling up to drop me off, before he goes to park. It takes me a bit to get the cast out of the car and get the door shut so he can park. The last couple of weeks cars have peeled out around us as I have gotten out of the car. It made me feel, well bad. I am sorry to have slowed the cars behind us down. I move as fast as I can and I am pretty sure the delay wasn’t more than about 30 seconds, still, the feeling of being the “slow” one is not a positive one.
I am aware, that so often as the “fast” one, I have not been as patient or as kind to those who had trouble moving. I think about the times my mother struggled to move and we were at the mall or in a restaurant and she would apologize for moving so slow, I and others would say “it’s okay” and mostly we meant it. And sometimes, if I am honest, we were just being nice.
I am not proud, particularly as I see how the speed of life sometimes overtakes my sensitivity to what is important. The idea that there should be fast lanes and slow lanes at shopping malls so that those who live in the fast lane won’t be inconvenienced by those who are slower for whatever reason hit me hard. Obviously “faster” means “more important” and “getting more done” and “being productive” while slower means “unproductive” and “in the way” and “inconvenient” for those who travel more quickly.
While not numbering myself in that group, those who tend to be “slower” are the most vulnerable in our society: small children who sometimes have trouble “keeping up”, the elderly who are doing their best to “not be a burden”, those who have mobility issues either through disease or accident or being born that way. Most people do not want to be a problem or burden or to slow anyone down. The truth is that most of us do at one point or another.
Where did I ever get the idea that faster was better? That people who moved slower should get out of my way because somehow it was more courteous of them to respond to my need for speed? Where did that young woman get that idea? Where did all of us lose the sense of kindness to those who might have more difficulties in life? It’s as if we have this belief that people who move slowly do so just to annoy and irritate.
Part of my sadness and embarrassment is my participation is that thinking and behavior. What hardships and humiliations have I dumped on people in my hurry and need to be “fast.” It is true for thinking fast, walking fast, moving fast and sometimes being “irked” at those who are not keeping up. Not only does that make me pretty insensitive, it means I miss things because I am going so fast. In the midst of missing things, I certainly could be capable of doing the kind of harm I wouldn’t want to do.
I don’t know what will happen when my air boot comes off, I suspect as soon as I am able I will be back to walking and moving quickly. What I pray is I won’t be back to being irritated and insensitive to those who for many reasons take the world a little more slowly. I pray I will check my behavior in the fast lane, so those in the slow lane are not humiliated, or harmed or hurt and embarrassed.
I am graced to serve.